The new floating water park off the shore of Lake Okanagan has been attracting unwanted visitors late at night, and without help from local police – the owners are limited in how they can enforce against trespassers.
Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth of the Penticton RCMP wants to see the business solve its own problem.
“The owners have failed to do anything to discourage this type of incident. They need to secure it themselves, it’s not our job,” he said. “Are we going to go out there and kick people off? No.”
Rylie Gallagher, co-owner of Okanagan Wibit, said his company tries to deter trespassing by commissioning overnight security patrols, but the approach isn’t hands-on.
“The security there is basically in place to tell people that the park is closed; they are trespassing; what they are doing is illegal,” he said. “Short of putting up an electric fence around the park we can only do so much.”
In the event of a trespasser injuring him or herself, Gallagher said the matter of liability is subjective to the law and depends on the circumstances, but he feels due diligence is being demonstrated through signage and security.
“It’s clearly stated when you can’t be on the park. We’re doing everything in our power to notify those people that they cannot be on the park and they are entering it at their own risk, and that they need to get off and they are trespassing.”
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said there were provisions in the agreement between Wibit and the city stating the park will police itself, and he hopes to see that message staunchly driven home.
“Perhaps they need to have a bit more of a presence at the initial stages, but it is up to the owner to ensure that he’s protecting his investment from people accessing it when they’re not supposed to be – particularly if they’re intoxicated,” he said. “We don’t want people out in the water when they’re in that state of mind.”
He said both parties will have a chance to review the agreement at the end of the season.
“We’ll sit down and see if it made sense and that everyone was happy with how things transpired,” he said. “See what changes have to be made, if any, to improve it over the following years.”
Gallagher first launched a floating water park last summer in Kelowna, which is still in operation from that location. That site has also experienced people trespassing.
“In Kelowna in my experience dealing with the RCMP is that they feel there’s nothing that they can do, or there’s nothing that they’re going to, and it’s basically our problem to solve. Which is kind of disappointing.”
He hopes the few people misusing the park don’t ruin it for everybody, but despite concerns, Gallagher said the park has received mostly good feedback.
“People are really happy that we have something for younger people in Penticton,” he said. “There’s a lot that caters to an older demographic in Penticton and Kelowna – basically the whole Okanagan; but not a lot of things that target a younger demographic.”
“We’re excited that we have another amenity on the water,” Jakubeit said. “It’s good for beach-goers to have one more thing to do there.”
While he has no immediate plans to expand, Gallagher said when the time comes, he has his eye on Vernon and Osoyoos.
“I was raised in the Okanagan and I’ve lived around the Okanagan my whole life, so I’d like to expand in my own backyard.”